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senate Bill S. 546

Should the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Be Permanently Reauthorized?

Argument in favor

The heroes of 9/11 who responded to the terror attacks and in the process were exposed to toxic substances that eventually caused them to develop cancer or other illnesses shouldn’t have to worry about paying for treatment. This bill would permanently reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund to ensure that America’s promise to the heroes of 9/11 isn’t forgotten.

Argument opposed

While first responders and other 9/11 victims who are suffering from serious illnesses should continue to receive compensation for their healthcare as long as they need it, it should be reauthorized for a shorter duration of time to ensure that Congress revisits the program and has designated opportunities to review or reform it.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedFebruary 25th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 546?

This bill  — the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act — would permanently authorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 by providing funding for claims through FY2090. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) would be modified to allow the filing of claims until October 2089 and require VCF policies and procedures to be reassessed at least once every five years (which currently must be reassessed at least once annually). Under current law, the VCF is authorized through FY2020, but it is experiencing a shortfall and benefit cut due to an influx of claims.

The bill would require VCF claimants to be paid for the amount by which a claim was reduced on the basis of insufficient funding. Additionally, the cap on noneconomic damages would be lifted in certain circumstances, and the annual limit on economic loss compensation for inflation would be adjusted.

This bill is named after several 9/11 first responders who died of illnesses related to their work at Ground Zero in New York City.

Impact

Victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and the Victim Compensation Fund.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 546

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced this bill to ensure that 9/11 first responders and survivors who have been injured by the toxins and have certified 9/11 illnesses receive full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund:

“[Recently], 9/11 heroes all over the country learned the horrible news that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will need to make severe cuts. Cancer rates in the 9/11 first responder community are rising faster than ever before, and that means our 9/11 heroes are going to need the VCF more urgently than ever before. Congress must not sit idly by ignoring this suffering and passing it off as someone else’s problem while drastic cuts are made to the VCF program. We must pass this bipartisan bill to make the VCF permanent with full funding so that when our 9/11 heroes get that terrifying call from the doctor, they’ll at least have the peace of mind that the VCF will be there for them and their families. We must honor our 9/11 heroes, and that means giving them the support they earned and deserve and urgently need.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced that this bill would be named after NYPD detective James Zadroga plus 9/11 first responders Luis Alvarez and Ray Pfeifer:

“Luis Alvarez, James Zadroga, and Ray Pfeifer gave everything for this country by responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it is unacceptable for this Congress to fail these heroes and their families. After all they have done for us, our nation cannot and will not turn its back on them. It’s time for Congress to do its job and fully fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”

This legislation has the support of 71 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, including 44 Democrats, 25 Republicans, and two Independents. Jon Stewart has advocated for the passage of this bill and criticized Congress for its slow response. In a meeting with 9/11 victims, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said his chamber will vote on this legislation before the Senate adjourns for recess in August.


Of NoteIn February 2019, the Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund announced that because of a funding shortfall, injured and ill 9/11 responders will receive a benefit cut to the tune of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims.

The VCF was last authorized for a five year period in 2015.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: NY USACE via Flickr / Creative Commons)

AKA

Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act

Official Title

A bill to extend authorization for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 through fiscal year 2090, and for other purposes.